Home sweet home: Flex Housing to provide a space for all students

Joining many universities across the nation, Northern Kentucky University is in the process of developing a flexible housing model that will support all students – regardless of gender identification, biological sex or sexual orientation.


The new program, led by Tyler Groll, the hall director for Norse Hall, is being implemented for the Fall of 2016, aiming to better allow students the opportunity to live in a safe and supportive environment.


According to NKU’s Housing website, the program, called Flex Housing, will allow for “same-gender, opposite-gender, non-gender or other-gender identifying students to live together regardless of biological sex.”


Arnie Slaughter, director of housing, said that while the new housing option does allow for co-ed housing, it does not mean that couples will be allowed to live together. The pilot program is aimed specifically for platonic relationships.


Slaughter added that Flex Housing rooms will typically accommodate three to four students, so that it is not perceived as family housing or married housing.


“We wanted [Flex Housing] to be something for friends, for individuals who want to live together regardless of gender,” Slaughter said. “It’s not just for one particular category of students, it’s for a variety of students who want to live with someone they’re more compatible with.”


While the program heavily benefits members of the LGBTQ community, Groll said that it is not intended specifically for gender-inclusive housing.


“We didn’t call it gender-inclusive housing,” Groll said. “It is a type of gender-inclusive housing, but we don’t want it to feel like it’s gender-exclusive, though. It’s not like you have to be of opposites genders or whatever your gender expression or gender identity may be. It simply takes gender out of the equation.


“So if students with different sexual orientations want to live with any type of friend, who may identify by a different gender, or if we have a transgender student who would want to live with a student of a different gender but not of a different sex, that would be a possibility.”


The Flex Housing option comes after multiple offices across campus, including the Student Government Association and LGBTQ Programs and Services, began exploring the option of gender-inclusive housing on campus.


“I just think that if you’re going to be a campus that prides itself on being inclusive, this is one of the areas that you have to address,” Bonnie Meyer, director of LGBTQ Programs and Services, said.

Slaughter said that to develop this model, University Housing looked at existing examples of flexible housing at other universities. They also worked closely with the Student Government Association.


“We incorporated their interests, their resolution, their feedback with some best practices at other colleges and universities to develop a pilot that we will make sure is successful for our students here,” Slaughter said.


Groll said that SGA looked closely at models of flexible housing at colleges such as Georgia State University. He also said that George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia and Pace University in Manhattan, New York utilize flexible housing.


Currently, the Flex Housing option is only open to returning student-residents at NKU, but Slaughter added that in the future it could be open to incoming freshmen.


Groll said that Flex Housing will be available in all of the residential facilities except for Kentucky Hall and Commonwealth, since those buildings are typically reserved for first year students.


This model of flexible housing has been in the works for a few years, according to Slaughter.


“Over the past few years as gender inclusive and flexible housing has become more prominent, members of our team have attended various national conferences and webinars to kind of just see variations of how this process has unveiled for specific universities,” Slaughter said.


“It’s been on the radar for a few years, but Tyler’s research and really narrowing in on schools that have programs that we can model after really is instrumental in making sure that this is going to be a smooth process for our returning students.”


The process to apply for Flex Housing is similar to going through the general selection process according to Groll. However, part of the process requires a meeting with housing staff to determine if students meet the requirements to be eligible for Flex Housing.


Students applying for Flex Housing are also encouraged to go through the general selection process because Flex Housing will not be guaranteed to every student.


Currently, requirements to be eligible for Flex Housing are to be an existing student living in campus housing and to be in good behavioral standing with the university, according to Groll.


Slaughter said that there has not been a specific number of rooms set aside specifically for the program, but rooms that allow for private, single-use bathrooms, will be where Flex Housing students are placed.


While Meyer believes that the new housing option will benefit the LGBTQ community on campus by providing a wider variety of options for them, she feels that it will benefit the campus community as a whole.


“It also allows for, in general, just more inclusive housing options for all students who are able to choose to live with whomever they feel comfortable living with,” Meyer said.


Slaughter said that while he credits the housing team and Groll for their research of this model, it was the interest of the students that made Flex Housing a reality.


“I’ll give credit to our students, because they are the individuals who have brought this idea to us and who consistently brought up suggestions and ideas,” Slaughter said.


Groll also believes that students have been the driving force behind the flexible model of housing.


“This wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t student-driven,” Groll said. “I think our students have requested this over the past couple of years, so we’re excited to be able to offer this as an option. This really hits home on our university’s strategic plan of focusing on inclusiveness and making a more equitable opportunity for all students regardless of gender.”